Allegheny Land Trust's Gateway Woods Project connects 396 acres of parks and greenspace in Monroeville. Photo courtesy of Allegheny Land Trust.

A new land acquisition in Monroeville is connecting parks to create a protected 396-acre contiguous greenway.

Allegheny Land Trust recently acquired 95 acres of land in Monroeville connecting Monroeville Community Park West, Monroeville Community Park East, Sugar Camp Park and Mosside Slopes Conservation Area.

This new permanently conserved green space, known as Gateway Woods, will provide further space for outdoor recreation and environmental education, mitigate downstream flooding in the Turtle Creek Watershed and improve air quality. Allegheny Land Trust says the area sequesters 381,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

Allegheny Land Trust saves local land with four strategic priorities: land conservation, land stewardship, environmental education and community conservation.

“We’re looking at lands and saying, ‘How do we prioritize these projects?’” says Lindsay Dill, senior director of communications and marketing for Allegheny Land Trust. “‘Does it contribute to regional resiliency by absorbing stormwater and improving air quality? Does it create wildlife habitat?’”

A broken metal gate surrounded by woods in Monroeville.
The Gateway Woods property is largely flat and has existing trails. Allegheny Land Trust's next steps include trail development and site assessment. Photo courtesy of Allegheny Land Trust.

Land trusts conserve spaces for traditional reasons, like hiking and recreation. But they also protect against landslides, which are prevalent in southwestern Pennsylvania due to the red bed clays.

“We want to preserve above, on and below slopes,” Dill says. “We want to avoid building on these very sensitive soils.”

Allegheny Land Trust protects Mosside Slopes, an aptly named slope dotted with wildflowers. The site had competing developers interested in residential development before Allegheny Land Trust’s acquisition last year. The land trust has a conservation easement over that property, meaning surface development is restricted.

“Something we know from Pittsburgh’s industrial past and present is that something that seems completely unbuildable, a developer will make buildable, even if it’s not actually a good long-term decision,” Dill says.

Gateway Woods received letters of support from Monroeville, Forest Hills, Pitcairn, U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, state Sen. Jim Brewster, state Rep. Brandon Markosek, Allegheny County Council member Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, the Garden Club of Allegheny County, Turtle Creek Watershed Association and Sustainable Monroeville.

A creek in the woods in Monroeville.
Gateway Woods connects several Monroeville parks and green spaces, including Monroeville Community Park West, Monroeville Community Park East, Sugar Camp Park and Mosside Slopes Conservation Area. Photo courtesy of Allegheny Land Trust.

The Gateway Woods property is flat and has existing community trails.

“The trails are very unmaintained at this point, but it is a space that has been used by people and could be used by people, especially because it creates these connections between all these parks,” Dill says. “There’s already a huge community greenway and other usable green spaces with more active recreation like baseball and soccer. This space creates an opportunity for hiking, maybe gravel mountain biking and birding.”

Now that it has the land, the trust team will monitor the boundaries and mark them, send notices out to residents and assess the site’s health.

“We’ve already determined it’s a healthy green space, but now we take an ecological look,” Dill says. “What are the native plants that are thriving here and where are the invasive challenges? Are there any dump sites that need to be addressed?”

The land trust will also work with grassroots contacts and to see what stakeholders want for the land. Trail planning and development usually take a few years to implement.

“This project was an amazing opportunity to create this greenway that connects all of these amazing parks,” Dill adds. “We’re confident that as is, it will serve the community by just maintaining that wildlife habitat and water quality, connectivity, and noise buffering, and just beautiful access to nature. And there’s a potential it could create more opportunities for outdoor recreation.”

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A Pittsburgh native, Ethan is a freelance journalist interested in telling the stories of people doing great things to build community and sustainability. Ethan served as Editor-in-Chief of Allegheny College's newspaper, The Campus.